Our last day in Beijing was quite busy. In fact, I'm having trouble remembering in what order we did things! So things might be out of order.
We started off at a school for special needs adults; however, since it was Sunday no students were there. The girls did have an opportunity to do some paper cutting and make a card in their art room. We were also able to purchase some of the cards and things the students made. In the courtyard we had a chance to do activities that they do, like kicking a shuttlecock (think hackeysack), spinning a special piece of material on a stick and playing with a true Chinese yoyo.
We then went to tour a hutong via rickshaw and visit with a woman in her home. This was one of the highlights for me so far. Her home was very humble, and they guide said she could probably sell it for a lot of money, but the woman said she is happy and content there and won't move. She lives on a courtyard with two other families. The three men are brothers. The courtyard held a small garden where they were growing pumpkins, peppers, among other things. They had a small fish pond and pigeons. The husband of the woman we met raises pigeons competitively. The children can play in the courtyard, and it kind of reminded me of where we live, on a cul-de-sac with two other families who are pretty close.
We went to Tianenmen Square, and it was HOT. After taking pictures in front of Chairman Mao's picture, we went to the southern end of the square to fly kites. It was hot, but the girls had fun. A storm rolled in and we got caught in the rain. We had seen the storm clouds coming our way, but the wind seemed to come out of nowhere. We were drenched, but tried to laugh it off. We went back to the hotel to get ready for dinner, which was followed by the Chinese acrobats.
The train ride from Beijing to Xi'an was something else. Again we got caught in the rain, and we had to work our way through throngs of people. Bing, our guide, had told us not to worry about being polite and to be pushy if we have to. A lot of the other passengers are from the country, and they just push their way through. Rachel was in front of me, as was one of the other girls in our group whose parents were a little behind me. I just grabbed both girls' arms and wouldn't let go, and we all made it through. It was a little stressful, but interesting and I'm glad we got to experience it. The train itself was fairly comfortable, though I know some people who read my blog wouldn't have enjoyed it as much as I did. The bathrooms left a little to be desired. Little to no toilet paper, didn't flush well and didn't stay clean long at all. Our compartment was clean, with four bunks. In my compartment it was Rachel and me, and another mom and her daughter, Myriam and Amber. Fred, Bill (Myriam's husband), Bing and Maureen (the only grandmother on the trip) stayed in a compartment next to us. Families of 4 had compartments to themselves, and the rest of us were split up two moms/two daughters to a compartment, and then Fred's odd compartment. Rachel fell asleep pretty much as soon as we pulled out at 9:20 p.m. I didn't sleep well at all, and I got up for good at 5 a.m. and watched out the window almost the rest of the way, until 8:00. The countryside was beautiful. Lots of mountains and farmland. Fields were along the mountains growing mostly corn and sunflowers. There were a lot of graves right in the fields, with big headstones. Bing said they can bury family members in the fields at no cost, and they will have a fengshui expert come in to tell them the bet way to face the body. We also saw ancient caves in the mountainsides where people used to live. There were a lot of sights I tried to take pictures of but at 75 mph, I think they're all blurry.
We leave Xi'an tomorrow morning to fly to Chengdu. I'll try to update with Xi'an pictures soon. They keep us pretty busy! But I think we have some downtime either tomorrow after we arrive or Thursday after we see the pandas.